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The Nokia 808 Pureview: A camera that will make us switch to Symbian

The Nokia 808 Pureview, that 41-megapixel camera phone people ridiculed, ogled and confused themselves over. 41-megapixels is a ridiculous number, there’s no denying that. Mid to high end SLRs tend to cap out at 18-megapixels, with some exceptions such as the Nikon D800 requiring huge lenses to take advantage of their pixel power. That said, we’ve spent a day with an 808 Pureview, it’s blown us away.

The Nokia 808 Pureview is smart. Smarter than your average phone and even smarter than your average camera. So humour us for a moment, forget that the Pureview runs Symbian. Forget it runs Belle, the latest version of the OS which is feature rich when compared with any previous versions before. Now really work with use here – forget that the Pureview is even a phone, take it as an imaging tool with portability, durability and quality as the ultimate goal.

A camera with 41-megapixels, no optical zoom and a smaller than APSC sensor. Recipe for disaster?

No. The way these 41-megapixels get used is as follows: For starters, the Pureview needn’t make a 41 megapixel image, but instead a 3, 5 or 8-megapixel image. A set of pixels join together to create a more accurate super pixel, eradicating noise, maximising detail and reducing file size, better even than a standard compact camera. That said, if lighting is particularly good or you need that extra bit of detail, by all means, shoot full resolution.

Nokia improve the picture by taking information from all the pixels in the group and with as much accuracy as possible given the pixel sample being so high, choosing the most correct colour to communicate.

Add lossless digital zoom into the mix and the Nokia 808 Pureview really does start to make sense: Provided you’re taking pictures at 5-megapixels, the Nokia 808 Pureview needn’t crop into the quality of the photo in order to zoom. Instead, it instead sacrifices on the super pixel and simply offers a 1:1 pixel use at its most zoomed, delivering a true 5-megapixel image at 3x zoom and killing the need for interpolation (the artificial creation of pixels when digitally zooming).

As far as the camera construct goes, Nokia have teamed up with Carl Zeiss in order to get the most out of the sensor that they’ve developed. The lens elements are fixed in terms of focal range, with movable parts being the autofocus, ND filter and shutter. Images are taken quickly and the physical camera button on the device is naturally two stage and responsive. The user interface is also incredibly thumb optimised. In order to zoom, simply swipe up on the screen. This creates a stunningly intuitive crop box which releasing your thumb will turn into your frame. Long pressing with your thumb will change the mode and the whole design is such that it lends itself to one comfortable use.

Finally, the image quality. This is something we’re not going to dwell on at all in this quick summary piece, instead, here are some photos taken on the Nokia 808 Pureview. Suffice to say, they blew us away. Click through on them for a large grid, we’re working on letting you download all the originals, but these should give you an idea as to what you can expect.

Now back to how we should categorise the Nokia 808 Pureview: This is a compact durable camera that happens to make phone calls. It’s class leading, unable to deliver the depth of field of an SLR, it still offers better noise handling and aperture at its most zoomed than compacts and many SLR lenses (f/2.4). In addition to making phone calls, this camera also has a modest but effective app selection including Whatsapp and Angry Birds with high quality full HD video recording capabilities too. It isn’t a perfect camera, but there’s enough there to make us stop in our tracks and wow.

A well known phrase, “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”, and never was a truer word spoken than in relation to the Pureview. When we reviewed the N8, it was incredible, definitely evolutionary. This isn’t another Nokia N8 though, we can confidently say that Nokia in their 808 Pureview have created something entirely new.

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